THE BLOG

I was a Teenage Ukipper

08/01/2015 12:53 GMT | Updated 09/03/2015 09:59 GMT

This blog is a departure for me, anyone who's read my work before knows I specialise in games and outdated references. However, with the General Election campaign starting to heat up there is a story I need to tell.

In 2004, at the grand old age of 17, I signed up as a registered supporter of UKIP. At the time I even volunteered on their European Election campaign and went door to door to round up support.

As teenage rebellions go, it's possibly the most right-wing in history. In truth, as both my parents are firm conservatives (intentional small c) it could barely even qualify as that.

Really it was a choice born from my own right-wing leanings, a certain desire to irritate my casually liberal peers and because I believed, as I still believe, that the EU is one of the most undemocratic institutions in the Western World.

I was concerned about an institution where the administrative arm has powers as wide-ranging as the EUs, by a tendency to reject answers they simply do not like (Irish and Dutch referenda for example) and by an elected branch who, at best, could be said to represent a minority within a minority of people who actually bothered to vote for them.

For all my other concerns, there was one part of the EU I never felt the need to question. To me, Free Movement of people was an eminently sensible response to Europe's geographic closeness and shared history.

Immigration never bothered me.

2015-01-07-rRACISTVANlarge570.jpg

Nothing to see here

Then again, why would it? I myself am an Immigrant to this country. Born and raised in the United States it is only by virtue of a British father that I was entitled to dual citizenship and could bypass many of the hurdles that lie in the way of other émigrés hoping to reach these shores..

Indeed, I have always been a firm believer that immigration can bring real and lasting benefits to a country; a view that, in my opinion, every American should share.

Unfortunately, these beliefs put me at odds with the rank and file members of UKIP I began to meet on my rounds and, while I pushed on with my support for another year, I was becoming disillusioned with the party.

During University I more or less withdrew from politics, I voted when there was an election but I no longer had the energy to debate big topics like the EU with my peers. Then, after University, my views only hardened.

I graduated in 2009, for those keeping score at home this is also known as possibly the worst year to graduate in recent memory. The recession was in full swing and jobs were scarce.

2015-01-07-ukecongrowth198020121024x7031.png

Yep, seems about right

With no graduate positions available and resolved to avoid welfare for as long as possible I took to temporary work by signing up with a number of agencies.

For two years I did every job going; labouring in a printing press, installing furniture in a Halifax branch, and delivering meals in the NHS. In each job I had the good fortune to work with people from all over the world. I met and worked alongside Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, Indians, Bangladeshis and countless others.

Never once did I meet any immigrant who seemed intent to scrounge off the state or who had come to the UK drawn by the allure of our benefits system. While evidence of immigration was certainly all around me, evidence of its terrible, harmful effects certainly was not.

The people I did meet were, almost without exception, brave men and women who had travelled hundreds of miles to work 12 hour shifts back to back in poor conditions for limited pay, all for the chance to build a better life for themselves and their families.

Where someone did come across as a slacker, I am sorry to say, they were most often British and often there at the express direction of the Job Centre. They usually performed the necessary motions and then never returned.

While I eventually found permenant work, it's these memories that kept coming back to me as I watched Nigel Farage lead a resurgent UKIP to a string of victories all on the back of a vociferous anti-immigrant message.

2015-01-07-518236359_c_embedStandard.jpg

Now older and (hopefully) wiser, I find myself worried that there are others like the 17 year old me, people who have genuine concerns that should be addressed about the institutions of the EU, who have been swept up into the purple tide of UKIP.

Maybe some haven't had the same experiences as I have, and certainly mine will not be wholly representative of the issue, and believe the sound bytes that Farage specialises in. Others might see the unpleasant message as a means to an end, a necessary evil to make real change in the often glacial body of the EU.

Whatever their reasons for supporting the party I cannot believe that every member is the screaming racists that some commentators would paint. I know people like them, I was one of them once, and painting them as 'swivel eyed loons' only pushes them into a corner.

If I could reach each and every member of the party I would tell them my story, tell them what I've seen and experienced and ask each to consider whether achieving a referendum on EU membership, a goal I wholly support, is worth selling our souls to a man like Farage?

As for the election this year, I still don't know who I will vote for - I don't feel any party has a platform I wholly support - but I know who I will be working against.